Year C – Proper 4 – 1 Kings 18:20-21, 30-39; Psalm 96

So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel.  And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. . . .  Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down.  Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs of seed. And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water.  And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”

Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.

Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth!

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.”

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.

Summary – The Kings passage is a well-known story.  Elijah has a showdown with the prophets of Baal over whose God was better.  We all know the outcome:  after Baal didn’t answer them, no matter what they did, Elijah takes his turn.  He rebuilds the altar to the Lord that had been previously torn down, places on it the sacrifice, some wood, and douses the entire lot with water.  However, when he prays, God sent fire to burn the offering.  Psalm 96 is a psalm of praise to the God who is savior, glorious, praiseworthy, and creator.  But what is contingent on all these positives is the recognition of just the kind of thing that happened on Mt. Carmel with the prophet Elijah.  It is these events that qualify as what the psalmist writes of, “Tell of his salvation from day to do.”  This is the kind of  event that shows His salvation.

Insight – If I asked you to tell me about your favorite two trips to your grandparents’ house ever, what would you automatically think about?  That specific trip?  Something about it?  When different places in the Bible speak of what God has done for people, it has something specific in mind.  In this case we have an example of that.  When we read in Psalm 96 that we are to tell of God’s salvation, the Bible has certain meanings in mind.  Elijah’s showdown with the prophets of Baal shows how the temple or Israel’s corporate worship was like Baal’s.  So one thing Elijah did was mimic the elements of the temple: he builds an altar, surrounds it with water (like the “seas” in the Temple), and burns it.  Only this time, the fire came from an unexpected source: heaven.  Those whom God draws to himself from idolatry and sin have the “fire from heaven” in the form of His coming and dying on the Earth.  Idolatry is the same as thinking that we in any way have anything to God.

Prayer –  Father, you have worked wonders in the past.  We know that you don’t always work in the same ways from year to year, or decade to decade.  But we remember your great work of salvation that you accomplished in Jesus Christ, and that you applied to us.  Thank you for your grace, and we pray that you would help us to remember it daily that we may turn back to praise to God.  Through Christ, Amen

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